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Objective: To examine the relation between built environment factors (representing several dimensions of urban form of neighbourhoods) and walking activity at both the neighbourhood level and the resident level, in an older adult sample.
Design, setting, participants: A cross sectional, multilevel design with neighbourhoods as the primary sampling unit and senior residents as the secondary unit. Five hundred and seventy seven residents (mean age = 74 years, SD = 6.3 years) participated in the survey, which was conducted among 56 city defined neighbourhoods in Portland, Oregon, USA. Neighbourhood level variables were constructed using geographical information systems. Resident level variables consisted of a mix of self reports and geocoded data on the built environment.
Main outcome measure: Self reported neighbourhood walking.
Main results: A positive relation was found between built environment factors (density of places of employment, household density, green and open spaces for recreation, number of street intersections) and walking activity at the neighbourhood level. At the resident level, perceptions of safety for walking and number of nearby recreational facilities were positively related to high levels of walking activity. A significant interaction was observed between number of street intersections and perceptions of safety from traffic.
Conclusions: Certain neighbourhood built environment characteristics related to urban form were positively associated with walking activity in the neighbourhoods of senior residents. Public health promotion of walking activity/urban mobility and the design of interventions need to consider the contribution of neighbourhood level built environment influences.